Alpine’s trackside operations director Alan Permane described the team’s shock at finding the pit lane entrance blocked by people when Esteban Ocon came in to make his pit stop during Sunday’s race.
Ocon came in to make his mandatory pit stop on the final lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. However he discovered a crowd of people standing in the fast lane of the pits when he arrived. Following an investigation, the FIA stewards confirmed members of the media and other personnel had been allowed to stand in the area earlier than they should have been as the organisers began setting up the parc ferme area.
“Our chief mechanic just came on the intercom and said ‘there’s people in the pit lane’,” Permane recalled. “Of course Esteban at that point he’s going 80kph, don’t forget, so he can stop the car pretty quickly if he needs to. So whilst it was quite scary to look at I’m sure he was in full control and no one was in serious danger.
“But it was a bit like a scene from Group B rallying days, wasn’t it, with the sort of crowds on track parting as he got there. The biggest problem is if some weren’t watching. But as I say he’s not moving very quickly at that point.”
Alex Albon had a similar experience in the Australian Grand Prix last year. Permane said the FIA should be able to prevent a repeat.
“It’s something we’ve seen before, there’s a keenness – I don’t know why the photographers are allowed there but of course I understand people want to get the shots of the cars coming into parc ferme and things like that.
“But the pit lane is still open, the race track is still live. I don’t think it’s rocket science to fix that. I think it’d be quite a simple one.”
The FIA acknowledged yesterday a “very dangerous situation” had occured and “immediate steps” will be taken ahead of this weekend’s race in Miami to review their procedures.
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